View Full Version : [3.5] The new DM: A Campaign Journal.

Vin Robinson
2010-03-15, 07:17 PM
First off, I would like to tell you a little bit about myself and the group. We're all currently college students, and most of us have never played or simply have not since we were maybe 12. I'm one of the ones that hasn't even touched any D&D material since I was a child, and no one else wanting to do it combined with the Creative Writing elective I'm taking forced me into the role.

So, I whipped up a preliminary campaign, and we ended up running three sessions and then stopping. It failed because I let one person over-optimize, and got too far away from role playing and got into simple silliness. The games were also delayed by chatter to the point by when we started, I was tired and cranky, and that makes it so the game is no good for anyone. There was also way too many people. Now, I figured out everything I did wrong, fixed some house ruling issues, and put together a new group. So far we have had two sessions that everyone has so far really enjoyed. For our first session, I started the group off at level 1 with no possessions in prison, and they were required to come up with a reason that their character was in prison.

The party

Lillith Storm: Lillith is a Gray Elf Swashbuckler/Fighter that eventually plans to go into Champion of Corellon Larethian. Her backstory is that she was a pirate, and then described the general aesthetics of her character as Jack Sparrow. Lillith is played by Paige, who is enthusiastic about playing and a serial LARPer, but gets goofy a lot. She is the one I've been expecting the most problems from.
Orin: Orin is an Illonis Planar Ranger and has a very no-nonsense approach to good, and severely distrusts the other members of the party. He's described himself as a tall blind guy, with rags over his eyes and rags covering the rest of him. He's played by Steve, and I don't know him very well but he seems like an okay enough guy, if not a bit arrogant.
S'Durso: S'Durso is a Lesser Tiefling Duskblade who took Knowledge Devotion and Power Attack for his first level feats. He described his character as Vincent Valentine but with black clothing instead of Red. For a relatively simple character build, it has done quite a bit to surprise me. It is played by Mike Durso, who is one of my best friends but has never touched anything nerdier than a 360 controller in his entire life. He's surprisingly bright in the game, and roleplays well. He keeps amazing me.
Nona: Nona is short for No Name, a human Factotum that dresses in plain clothes and tries to keep out of the spotlight, acting as an ambusher and the parties' trapsmith. She described herself as plain looking, but covered in scars. Nona is played by Kelsey, another player completely new to the game. She is grasping the mechanics quite well, but seems a bit too shy to her hands dirty roleplaying.
Professor Bimble Pudmuffin III: Oh geez, I don't know where to start with this one. A Gnome Artificer, Bimble really loves fire and tinkering. Played by Joshua, a veteran to D&D, Bimble's role playing encounters are always marked by his voice, a high-pitched gravely advent that sounds like one of the Goblins from the Warcraft series. I have a hard time interacting with the character as my NPC's, just because it's difficult to not laugh at the voice.

Now that that's summed up, I'm going to tackle reporting on the first session in the next post.

Vin Robinson
2010-03-15, 08:57 PM
The first two sessions I've done just experimenting and trying different DMing styles, so they don't really fit into any sort of "plot" or anything.

The party in prison, hasn't seen a guard in a day in a day and a half, and they start to get suspicious. Some retroactive Sleight of Hand and Listen checks are rolled, to see if they were able to hide anything when they were thrown in prison, and to hear the guards leaving the jail in the middle of the night.

S'Durso wanted to hide a bottle of rum on his person, and got a natural 20 on the roll. Also trying to hide a dagger, he fails the role, looks at me and says "Good thing I also hid a dagger in that bottle of rum I already got in here."

So, the Duskblade is armed. A crazy guy attacks him in his cell, incoherently screaming about Undead, and is killed by S'Durso. He finds a lockpick on the corpse, tosses it to the Factotum, and the group is sprung from prison. After searching the prison for some weapons, they head off across a bridge that connects them to the rest of the city. They start to hear a sound like metal scraping on stone, so Lillith decides to charge the source of the noise, ends up killing the wounded guard, and making it so they don't get to hear what's going on. They open a gate to get into the city proper and O NOES nine zombies are in the way. Half an hour of combat later, Lillith is down, Bimble is out of Crossbow bolts, and S'Durso is out of spells. With more zombies chasing them, they grab the unconscious but stable swashbuckler and make a run for the nearest building. Inside, the house is mostly abandoned, but they manage to patch up the Swashbuckler who is hurt but still up. They hear a noise upstairs, and Lillith and S'Durso go to investigate. Inside is a room with a summoning circle and an alter in it, with an elf chained to the wall and another strapped to the alter. Standing in front of the alter, is a Level 7 human wizard in dark robes. He started the fight with Mage Armor up, and his first action was going to be to cast shield, bumping his AC up to 21, hopefully making him untouchable to a group of level 1's. They weren't supposed to win.

During the surprise round, S'Durso casts true strike, and Lillith moves into position to flank the target. First round of combat, S'Durso wins initiative, charges the caster, full power attacks with a successful +3 knowledge devotion check, and then rolls out a crit. I forget the exact number, but the final damage was somewhere in the low 40's, killing my caster dead. The second combat of the game, the party reaches level 2. :-|

I had to momentarily leave the room, I had no idea what to do, so I just sort of made something up, so I just had a blast disc go off when my evil guy died, except it was a concussive force of negative energy. S'Durso is thrown out of the room and off of a Balcony, reducing him to negative hitpoints.

After stabilizing S'Durso, Nona and Bimble rush up to check on Lillith, who mysteriously is just gone, along with everything else in the room, except the elf who was on the alter. The Elf is Leylin Stormbrow, an elf and court wizard to the now destroyed regime. He explains everything that the dead guard would have, along with the knowledge that there's boats in the harbor ready to transport anyone left alive to safety.

The rest of the party with Leylin decide to leave out the balcony and take the rooftops. They're attacked by a Dire Zombie Bat ( :smallfrown: I don't know what I was thinking there. ) Which they successfully kill. Nona spends all of her inspiration points to do a rather impressive two-weapon-fighting routine. They make it to the docks, but stay on the rooftops, they make a few successful spot checks, then see a very pale looking Lillith along with Orin and someone new on a Skiff, and they pull up to the end of the dock.

Between the main part of the party and the boat, however, are two Zombie Minotaur.

And as it was getting late, that was the end of session I.


At this point, my plan for session two was to try and do a murder mystery, trying to not let the party get bored and want a change of pace due to an intense combat first thing. Hopefully I'll be able to cover that in full later.

Vin Robinson
2010-03-15, 09:38 PM
This was largely experimental, and I honestly didn't like the way it went, as it put a lot of stress on me to really know a large number of NPC's and react according to the players. I also think the "mystery" itself was a bit elementary, though everyone did seem to enjoy the whole "scooby-doo" feel of things.

The first large chunk of play time was taken by defeating the minotaur zombies, S'Durso again taking the spotlight in the combat. Bimble has been rather ineffective, but he's been unable to get alchemical items, and that's the general thesis of his character. I decided to give him that option soon enough.

Another note. Paige's character, Lillith is secretly undead now, and we've made accommodations to hide that fact from the rest of the party, eventually using it as some intricate plot device.

The flotilla consists of five ships. Two passenger cruisers, Gutbuster and Trumpet, along with a large war ship, Punisher, the skiff the party comes in on, The Captain's Fancy, and a merchant vessel, Bright Beauty.

There are quite a few civilians alive, but they keep mostly to the passenger boats.

The leader of the people left over from the city, Augustus Waltz, lets the party take whatever they want from the armory. Bright Beauty also has an alchemy lab and raw materials on it, which Bimble makes use of in exchange for all the gold the party has accumulated so far. S'Durso also secures for himself a Masterwork, Laminated Steel, Serrated Bastard Sword. (Goofy pile of number. 1D10 damage, 19-20 crit range for x4 damage. +1 to attack and damage rolls, +5 to its hardness.)

Most of the night was the party just interacting with the NPC's on the boat. It was stressful, but fun. And it got a fair chunk of xp for the rest of the party.
Complete list of NPCs:
Augustus Waltz, the highest-ranking person to get out of the city, a General in the previous emperor's army.
Serrin, the half-Dark elf dandy.
Hakim, his quiet body guard.
Dorn, a large Barbarian.
Amelia, a very attractive noble woman.
Leylin, a previous Wizard to the emperor.
Azeria, Leylin's wife and Cleric to Correlon Larenthian.
Jak Fleet, a Halfling Cleric.
Rassik, a Dwarf snakeoil salesman with his own boat, Calm Horizons.

After several days on the boat, Lillith has raped, killed, chopped up, and discarded the broken pieces of Dorn the Barbarian. Bimble has started to "see intimately" Serrin, and Augustus Waltz has turned up dead on the deck of the ship. A search check denotes the fact that there are some feint bloody footprints that lead toward Gutbuster, and they eventually turn into something else.. Something with claws. They end up searching the captains quarters, Lillith again being knocked unconscious due to some Drow Poison on a needle trap on Augustus' trunk. A dozen very specific search checks later and they find some love letters signed "assuredly yours", assuredly being a trait that Amelia uses quite frequently.

So, they confront her, ready for a fight, and she throws a bead of a necklace of Fireballs onto the deck of Gutbuster, shifts into her natural form of a Green Slaad, and runs away.

The party has the option of chasing the Slaad or helping people get off the boat, and they choose to save people.

The last hour and a half of the evening was pretty much skill-based adventure modified and taken from here:

Having gained another level and some good loot, the PC's hunker down for the night, watching the wreckage of Gutbuster slowly sink the rest of the way into the water, and note with a bit of reluctance that there seems to be a storm in the distance.

End session II.


I kind of want to apologize for the shoddy notes as it's been a two weeks and one respectively since I've actually played in these campaigns.

What I had planned to do was have the party one their boat either crash on an island, or be sucked down into a portal in the whirlpool and be launched somewhere else, starting a legitimate story, whatever it may be. They're all level 3 now, and starting to settle into their power and their roles.

2010-03-16, 02:46 AM
this is a really cool thread, i like the level of detail it goes into too. I hope you continue to keep it current

Vin Robinson
2010-03-16, 07:53 AM
Session III is about to take place this evening, and I'm not really prepared at all.

Since I have been running this campaign, a lot of interest has been generated, and another group of my 5 friends want to get a second group going. They are the less serious bunch and I have a campaign idea I wanted to try out. I'm requiring them to all have at least some semblance of Arcane casting or devotion to the arts, and I'm starting them out as conscripts to this Mage's guild. In order to be recognized as full members, they have to go through an orientation and training mission, then do a mission for each of the schools masters, a specialist in a form of Magic. I'm sort of combining Thay and the Oblivion Mage's guild for this, and then I'm going to have them go out and start doing missions, sort of like Seed from FFVIII.

The main thing I like about this is having them based out of this isolated gigantic Mage's tower, going back there for resources and building up ties to that specific community. I also plan on giving them a liaison to the guild, a Transmuter named Marcus. The second group is going to be a Dragon-Blood Sorcerer, Beguiler, a Rage Mage a Cloistered Cleric with Magic as a domain, and S'Dante. ( S'Durso is copying over his character sheet in order to play two campaigns and start to grasp the rules sooner. )

Anyway, I think it would be really neat to have the two campaigns tie into one another, so I'm thinking of having Group 1's boat flotilla be attacked by a Kraken or something, and having them shipwreck on an island or be sucked down a whirlpool portal, and find a gigantic abandoned Wizard's tower. Inside there's going to be the ghost of the now-deceased Marcus, and while they're in the area I'm going to have them use it as sort of a dungeon/home base, working them towards what went horribly wrong.

Both groups run in the same circle of friends, and any hints I give will spread quickly, and I think they'll get excited about it. I hope.

Anyway, that's the plan as of now. I'll be posting the third campaign journal either this evening or tomorrow, depending on how I'm feeling.

Any thoughts, ideas, or concerns regarding what I'm doing here would be appreciated. Like I said I'm a new DM and I sort of feel overwhelmed and like I'm drowning some of the time.

thanks in advance guys.

Vin Robinson
2010-03-17, 05:37 AM
After the fires the Red Slaad set on the boat, the group got itself some much needed rest. The only thing noteworthy in the distance was a rather nasty looking storm. After getting some sleep and healing up, the storm was upon them, and after hearing some rather distressing creaking, a Kraken wrapped it's tentacles around the flotilla, instantly destroying the Trumpet and sending Orin, Nona, and Bimble into the water.

The combat as follows is the several tentacles wrapped around the boats straining to break the boats into pieces, with smaller tentacles rising out of the water to grapple people. I gave each tentacle 15 hp, and at the end of every round the big ones try to break the boat.

I pre-planned and pre-rolled out five rounds of combat of the smaller tentacles and the NPC's actions so the combat would get bogged down.

The next two rounds go as follows:
S'Durso wins initiative and casts True Strike.
Lillith goes next, she rolls to do a full attack routine against the closest tentacle. Natural one. A loud pop is heard in her shoulder, she drops her weapon and the arm is useless for the next few rounds.
Orin attempts to Wild Empathy the Kraken. Natural 1.
Two Kraken tentacles come out of the water and start grappling with Orin after dealing some rather nasty bludgeoning damage.
Nona enters the grapple, attempting to free Orin. (She now has Brains over Brawn, and gets her int to the checks)
Bimble being the mad alchemist he is, chucks a flask of Acid at Nona Orin and the two Tentacles, rolling really well on his damage roll.
NPCs attack, NPCs are grappled by the tentacles, NPC's die.
At the end of the round the Kraken is unable to destroy the ships.
S'Durso's turn. He Knowledge Devotion 19's the check to identify the Kraken, netting him a +4 to attack and damage rolls against it. He subtracts 5 from his attack roll to get +10 to damage. He also channels his 3D6 shocking grasp through his bastard sword. Natural 1. I roll quickly on the fumble chart. He hits himself in the groin, crippling his movement speed and netting a -4 to all actions. the shocking grasp spell also goes off, dealing a nasty 16 damage to him (He rolled a 5-5-6 on the damage. :smallfrown:) and just for the lulz, I then had the Kraken try and break the boat.

It was successful, and the entire party falls down this whirlpool and goes unconscious.

They wake up several hours later, the wreckage of a boat around them, in a Forrest. Orin not trusting the rambunctious Pirate that is Lillith and the Tiefling, wanders off on into the woods and starts to live on his own. (He messages me on Facebook, and we roll out some survival checks, get him experience, and he finds a Ranger's Grove with a few magic items in it, just to keep him up with the party.)

Nona climbs a tree, and sees a tower off into the distance. The remaining party moves off to investigate. Fortunately for them, they end up searching the door for traps, and end up finding a CR1 Arrow trap. The Factotem does away with it and they proceed into the tower. S'Durso with his darkvision immediately spots a Spider in a web near the top of the ceiling, and Bimble takes care of it with his crossbow. The first floor appears mostly empty, except for a bunch of steps leading up, and a bunch of steps leading down. The party moves up to the second floor. There are eight bedrooms on this floor, all with a different insignia on the door. There is a Tree turning into an Animal, a Shield, a half-invisible humanoid form, and Eye, A hand creating a burst of energy, a Demon in Chains, a Skull, and a heart. Several knowledge checks later, and it's determined that each insignia represents a different school of Magic. After searching the rooms and being a little creeped out, the party finds some well preserved rations, a pair of Bracers of Armor +1, and an earcuff that when thrown at someone turns into a small poisonous spider. They also find a potion of True seeing.

They proceed to the top floor, a door they're not supposed to get into yet. The basement is a full dungeon and I don't want them to be able to get at what's on the third floor yet. The first door is an old Rusty Iron door. Nona the Factotum and Bimble the Artificer both fail their open lock checks. Bimble realizing he's an Artificer, decides to cast Inflict Moderate Damage to the hinges of the door, crumbling them and the door falling down the stairs. After a reflex save and a few bruised elbows, they rush back up to see what's behind the door. It's another door! And this one is made of Mithril with a rather expensive looking lock on it. Now, Nona tries to roll an open lock check, and I let her. She rolls a natural 20, opening the un-openable door.

Inside is a table with Eight chairs around it, and lots of Bookshelves around the edges of the walls. Floating towards the top of the ceiling, is an incorporeal form. Half an hour of Roleplaying ensues, and the party gleans the following.

Marcus, a former Transmuter, was an apprentice to this Mage's guild, a sort of mercenary organization. He's been a fetch for quite a long time now, and doesn't really remember too many details. What he does remember is that a woman came, and killed everyone in the tower, including him. Every few minutes, Marcus rolls on a secret chart (It's even or odd. :-|) To determine if he's in a state of Mania or Dementia. Dementia consists of him blurring out and going incorporeal, action bored and not really paying attention. Whenever he stops moving he starts to go indistinct. Mania consists of him trying to move around as much as possible so he doesn't disappear, acting paranoid and lashing out at those around him.

After talking some sense into him, he leads the party to a secret lever, turning the first floor into a kitchen/smithy/alchemy lab, etc. They also find a room that's completely filled with portals. Nona immediately searches one... With her hand. And is transported elsewhere. She sees a naked Ogre scratching at his genitalia at the mouth of a cave she's in, and can see water beyond. He makes a listen check and it's a natural 1, so he actually a deaf ogre. She goes back through her portal, reports to the party, and they decide to deal with it later.

They proceed down into the basement, and find three dire rats. They kill them quickly, and after they do, an orc barbarian bursts out from a side door and screams "WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO MY BABIES?!" and attacks them. S'Durso channels a Shocking Grasp and gets a -4 to the attack roll Power attack crit, felling the level 4 Barbian in the first round of combat. They proceed along and find a sleeping form in a sleeping bag.

It's a Kobold named Meepo, who is really cute and scared and roleplayed very well by your big scary DM, so they don't kill him. He scampers off up to the higher levels as their new "helper"

It was then getting late, so we decided to end there. We're on Spring Break, so I'll be running another session this evening, hopefully with another report.

2010-03-17, 05:56 AM
I like the way you are going. Jak Fleet. Lols. You've read the Erevis Cale books, haven't you?

2010-03-17, 06:19 AM
For reference, a natural 20 on skill checks doesn't guarantee success. ("opened the unopenable door"...) If that's not what happened, my bad.

Vin Robinson
2010-03-18, 04:49 AM
We use quite a few random house rules.
A 20 is always a success, a 1 is always a failure. (Even on things like initiative. Though going last is going last.)
Feat Progression works like Fighter Bonus feats. (1,2,4,6,8,10,12,14,16,18,20)
There's an action point system, but the only way to gain action points is to do things like bring food, make food, give people rides, host, etc.
In combat, if someone takes more than 10 or so seconds to decide what they're doing, they are skipped.
You can strike with both weapons if you're two-weapon-fighting as a standard action.

Also, yeah I like to try and use NPC's from Forgotten Realms novels now and again. See who gets it. Plus is a quick and dirty way to know how to Roleplay an NPC.


Last Night's session was kind of abrupt because I got really ill.

As the party proceeded deeper into the dungeon, down a long hallway all that they found was a pile of rubble and a doorway. Inside the pile of rubble was a Dire Rat, which was promptly executed. No one bothered to search for the Ruby hidden in the rubble.

The door of course was trapped, and Lillith got a nasty prick on the hand by a poisoned needle, but made her fortitude save.

The next room I just used a random encounter generator. It ended up being a ghoul and a level 1 half-orc Rogue. The combat went as follows:
Surprise round.
The half orc who passed his hide and move silently checks Sneak attack's Nona, dealing 16 points of damage and dropping her.
Lillith wins initiative. She draws her weapons and moves to protect Nona's corpse.
S'Durso's action. He casts true strike and draws his sword.
Ghoul's action. He moves up to Durso, provoking an attack of oppurtunity. S'Durso quickly makes a knowledge devotion check (19, 29 total) for a +3 bonus to attack and damage rolls, then power attacks for a full -5. He deals a whopping 29 damage and drops the ghoul, who is destroyed.
Bimble casts Orcbane as an infusion on his +1 small club.
Nona loses a hitpoint and continues to bleed to death after failing her Autohypnosis check. (Damn Factotums.)
The half orc goes to attack Bimble, fails his tumble check, and is hit in the groin with an orcbane club for lethal damage.

Bimble bops Nona on the noggin with a wand of cure light wounds and the party proceeds along it's merry way.

They come to an extremely long hallway. (150ft) After moving ten feet down the hallway, a pressure plate is stepped on and the torches in the wall sconce light up. Lillith decides to then go every ten feet, jump on the pressure plate, and keep going, the party tentatively following behind her.

When she gets to where the last pressure plate should be before this archway, when stepped on, a scythe trap triggers, dealing massive damage to the already low-hp'd lillith, reducing her to -12 and killing her.

The party not exactly too upset at losing their rapist pirate continues down a hallway into a large room with a giant constrictor snake in it. This badboy is large with a 10ft reach and combat reflexes. He also wins initiative and readies an action to nom at the first person he can.

Nona whips a dagger at it, spending inspiration and dealing 9 points of damage. Not bad.
S'Durso casts true strike. (Go figure)
Bimble draws a flask of acid and throws it at the middle square the snake occupies, dealing a total of 18 or so damage with the initial + splash. Looks like it's Mr. Pudmuffin's time to shine.
The Snake does the same thing it did last round.
Nona draws a longsword and rushes it, provoking three attacks of opportunity but tumbling away successfully. The readied action goes off and the snake tries to grapple her. Some how the silly factotum manages to not get grabbed against the snake's +14 grapple mod, and moves up and smack it for another 8 or so damage.
S'Durso's turn. Knowledge devotion check for +2, -5 power attack, channeling Shocking Grasp. Rolls. Natural 20. Confirm. 19. 54 damage later the snake is still alive but severely hurting.
Bimble draws a flask of alchemist's fire and hurls it at the snake, dealing another 20 or so damage. It dies.

The party gains enough experience to go up to level 4, and we call it a night.

Elsewhere, a naive forest-dwelling gray elf Swashbuckler named Iris(Paige's new character) comes across a ranger(Hey it's Orin. Remember him?) in his makeshift grove. The Ranger has discovered that a large portion of the forest is being killed by this acidic fungus, and decides to go back to the tower for two reasons: He develops a crush on Iris, who really wants to get to the tower for "unknown" reasons, and also decides that if he can get to a window towards the top, he might be able to see the extent of the fungus' reach.
Overall I think the campaign right now is going pretty smoothly. I don't think I want to do the double-session thing, because it's a lot of extra prep time, and I'm pretty sure where I want to go with the story. There's only one problem I have: S'Durso.

I need to figure out an encounter where he would be pretty much useless so he can't just true strike power attack his way to victory. The easiest solution would be to run him out of spells, but then the entire rest of the party is drained on their resources as well. I need a monster or a build that would be the perfect foil to him.

Other than that, what do you guys think so far? I want to keep up with the journal just for me, but it would be nice to know that others enjoy it as well. I guess I just get insecure. :smalleek:

2010-03-18, 05:02 AM
Just replying to say I love to read your journal, keep it up!

As for S'Durso: How about miss chances? True Strike negates miss chances by concealment, but there's Blink (50%), incorporeal creatures, mirror image, and so on.
Also, Shambling Mounds, because they are healed by electricity:smallbiggrin:

2010-03-18, 05:39 AM
You can only power attack equal to your BAB, so he can't power attack for the 5 or so I htink he's been doing so far. Also, since he seems to have a habit of rolling 20's with his channelled shocking grasps, remember that the shocking grasp damage isn't doubled, and that critical immune enemies can help here.

Vin Robinson
2010-03-19, 01:06 PM
Thanks for the tips. Especially the ruling about power attack. It's not going to matter much longer though.

I was thinking about throwing some Undead at the party, but the Swashbuckler and the Factotum both rely on precision damage to kill things, so it would just make everyone else hate the encounter rather then allowing someone else to shine.

2010-03-21, 11:44 PM
I'm really enjoying this -- the other campaign journals I've read have been from a player's perspective, so this is a nice change. It's a very easy (yet well written) read.